SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Greg Ness, Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente, Xenia von Wedel

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Sprint Adds ‘Character’ to Visual Voicemail with Avatars

Rather than leave a typical, run-of-the-mill voice mail message, starting today, Sprint customers with select Android devices can begin to upgrade to the latest Visual Voicemail software to grab the attention of their friends, family members and co-workers with personalized voice messages that feature talking characters (including animals, aliens, zombies and sock puppets), scenic backgrounds and voice effects. Sprint is the only U.S. wireless carrier to offer Avatars within Visual Voicemail.

Built using award-winning animation software from Smith Micro (NASDAQ:SMSI), the new service, available to Sprint, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA customers with select Android smartphones and Visual Voicemail, offers a wide range of content from world-renowned digital artists, allowing users to express themselves through multiple personas. The launch will include 12 free Avatars and 12 free backgrounds. The service allows customers to use Visual Voicemail to record and send animated messages with unique characters, backgrounds and voice effects.

Other features include:

  • Celebrate a Special Occasion: Avatars are lip-synched with the user’s audio message of 20 seconds (standard) or up to two minutes (premium: subscribers to Visual Voicemail to Text service*). Choose from a wide range of backgrounds (for example, Happy Birthday, Love, Thank You, Congratulations, Thinking of You) to convey your mood and sentiment.
  • Get Noticed: Flight delayed? Meet up for Happy Hour? Need to send a reminder? Avatars get attention.
  • Updated Often: Diverse content library offering dozens of characters and backgrounds, with new content added every week. Some are free and others range in price, starting at $0.99.
  • Have Fun with Your Voice: Use your own voice or optional voice effects with variable pitch control.
  • Express Yourself with Scenery: Choose from a wide range of backgrounds (for example, airport, beach, bar or office) to set the stage about where you are (or wish you were!) or choose your own background photos from the phone gallery (premium).
  • Share with Everyone: Avatar messages can be shared via voicemail, email, SMS, or posted to Facebook. Send messages to any subscriber on any network. The message can be viewed on the Web via any desktop browser, tablet or smartphone. If the receiver is not a Sprint customer or is a Sprint customer without Visual Voicemail (for instance, customers using a non-Android phone), they will receive an SMS message with a link to view the animated message.

“Integrating Avatars into our Visual Voicemail is yet another industry first from Sprint, because we strive to offer our customers innovative, fun and unique services that set us apart from the competition,” said Wayne Ward, vice president-Business and Product Development at Sprint.

“Smith Micro is thrilled to support Sprint as the first U.S. wireless carrier to launch Avatar messaging for their customers,” said William W. Smith, Jr., CEO of Smith Micro Software. “We are cultivating a fantastic library of content from an extensive artist community, including unique Avatar characters exclusively for the Sprint network.”

Availability

Sprint prepaid and postpaid customers with select Android smartphones will start to receive notifications to update their Visual Voicemail this month and next month, which will install the new version of the application with Avatars. Upon opening the new Visual Voicemail they will see two Avatar introduction videos and a happy face and plus sign icon on the lower right to get started.

The service is first available to Sprint, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA customers with Samsung Galaxy S® 5 and Samsung Galaxy S® 3, and to Sprint customers with Samsung Galaxy S® 4, Samsung Galaxy Note® 2, HTC EVO 4G LTE and HTC One®. Other Android devices, both prepaid and postpaid, Ice Cream Sandwich and above, will be eligible for the update beginning mid-September.

To watch a video about how Avatars works, click here.

Calling all students: Avatar design contest

Now through Oct. 31, educators from any accredited secondary school, college or trade school will be able to register for free copies of Smith Micro’s award-winning Anime Studio® animation software for themselves and their students. The Avatar Challenge allows students to use Smith Micro’s animation software to create Avatar characters with the chance to have their creations viewed and used by millions through Sprint Visual Voicemail. To learn more, read this press release. Get contest details or register for the Avatar Challenge program here.

About Sprint

Sprint (NYSE: S) is a communications services company that creates more and better ways to connect its customers to the things they care about most. Sprint served more than 54 million customers as of June 30, 2014, and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; leading no-contract brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Sprint as the most improved U.S. company in customer satisfaction, across all 43 industries, over the last six years. Sprint has been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) North America in 2011, 2012 and 2013. You can learn more and visit Sprint at www.sprint.com or www.facebook.com/sprint and www.twitter.com/sprint.

*Available on select phones. Visual Voicemail is a free service from Sprint. Subscription to Visual Voicemail-to-Text costs $2.99/mo.

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